If I asked you how you are doing, what would your answer be? Crazy? Busy? We’ve all managed to fill every minute of every day with a task, a chore or an obligation. But that doesn’t mean we’re truly productive. Now ask yourself the following questions: Do you spend your days the way you want to? Or is most of your time spent reacting to the influx of emails, social media and people who want your time? Do you book your days from wake to sleep with appointments, and leave no time for yourself or for growing other parts of your business?
If you’re like many fitness professionals, chances are there is a lack of balance between your professional life and your personal life. It doesn’t have to be that way. This article will examine how to incorporate a system into your life that will allow you more time to focus on the “want to dos” instead of the “have to dos.”
On a piece of paper, draw three circles that overlap in the middle, and in the circles write the three most important areas of your life. Yours might be marriage, work and friends, or they might be family, work and community service.
Now, take a look at your to-do list (even if it’s a mental one). It probably spills off the page. How much of what’s on your to-do list ties into the most important areas of your life? Not much, I’ll bet. We spend time checking email, running errands and posting to social media sites, but for most of us, these tasks have little or nothing to do with the three most important areas of our life.
We all complain that there just isn’t enough time in the day. It’s impossible to create more hours; however, it is possible to uncover daily inefficiencies that eat up more time than they should. Through self-evaluation, you can find ways to be more productive with the hours you do have.
Like you, I juggle a lot of responsibility. I’m a full-time mom, a CEO, an author, a spouse, a friend, a coach and an instructor. You might think that wearing all of these hats would be exhausting. Actually, for me it’s not. I’ve gone through many productivity programs, always looking for ways to become more productive with my time. Happily, my current productivity systems keep me well balanced. My life is full, but not busy. What I’ll share with you now is my adaptation of the best productivity systems I’ve found.
One of the primary tenets I live by—one that keeps my mind clear and improves my productivity—is organization. The Getting Things Done® system by David Allen is a great way to get organized. I found that Allen’s program isn’t just about getting things done. It’s about getting things done in a way that you can trust to free your mind. Having unfinished business bouncing about in your head, from things you need to do and things you want to want to do, causes clutter in your brain. That clutter creates stress. You need to get the thoughts out of your brain and into a system that will put your mind at ease.
Obviously, people have been busy for a long time. But that level of activity is probably at its highest today, due to the current extreme level of incoming information. Your days as a personal trainer and a business owner may be filled with sessions, but you are also bombarded with social media, texts, blog posts, voicemail, magazines and more. It’s chaos. It’s time to turn that chaos in to order.
Step 1: Organize Your Physical Space
As a trainer, your physical space is probably a combination of your car and your home office. Basically, you have a mobile office. Having client schedules, workouts and magazines scattered everywhere will cause you stress. Clutter causes both a physical block and a mental one, preventing you from achieving optimal productivity. Clearing the clutter allows you to see what truly needs to be done, and it frees your mind to take action.
So, set aside a few hours to get organized. To begin:
- Select one space in which to record all of your notes and appointments—for example, a written or digital day planner. Your mind will relax if it can trust that everything always goes into one place.
- Create one “collection receptacle,” or in simpler terms, one big in-basket. You don’t want your latest IDEA Fitness Journal or all your Post-it note reminders strewn around the house. These items should always go in your inbox. If you work from your car, don’t just toss stuff in the back seat; place an in-basket there, too. Remember, your brain needs to be able to trust where these items will be.
- Find one place to keep your to-do list. Your brain gets stressed trying to remember to call these clients, enroll in that course and pick up the dry cleaning as well. Choose one place to track all your to-dos. It can be a written list, so long as you always have it with you and you use it consistently. I suggest loading it onto a “cloud”-type online system that will sync with any of your devices and be available anywhere you have Internet access. Let the cloud and these great apps help you become more organized and efficient:
- Toodledo (www.toodledo.com) creates a workspace where you can organize your projects and tasks by importance level.
- Nozbe (www.nozbe.com), inspired by the Getting Things Done system, helps you manage your time, projects and more.
- Nirvana (www.nirvanahq.com) helps process your to-dos and organizes them based on “areas” like Business or Personal.
Step 2: Optimize Your Workflow
Now that you’ve gotten more organized, it’s time to process the incoming tasks of your life. Here’s my modified version of GTD®. I’ve found it to be very powerful.
- When an item comes in, put it in your physical or digital inbox.
- Schedule time each day to process your inboxes.
- Do. If a task can be done in 2 minutes or less, do it now. If it will take multiple steps, schedule the next step on your calendar as an appointment.
- Delegate. If a task can be delegated, then delegate.
- Delete. Get rid of any unnecessary items that clog up your inbox.
- File. If the item is not a task that needs to get done—for example, if it’s an article you’d like to file away for future reference—then put it in a reference folder or a catchall file.
A great example: Email can take over your day if you let it. To take control of it, set up a similar GTD system of Do, Delegate, Delete or File when you go through your email inbox. Set up filters to keep your inbox clean. For instance, newsletters and blog posts can go into their own folders, for you to read at a time you’ve chosen. Unsubscribe to emails that clutter your inbox, and create canned responses to emails that you write more than once.
Finally, here’s one of the most powerful productivity lessons I’ve learned. It comes from Michael Hyatt, an author and speaker who specializes in teaching people to live with passion and purpose (www.michaelhyatt.com). Hyatt suggests that you create an ideal-week template. It’s kind of like a budget, but it’s for your life. The lesson: Don’t simply react to your day; plan it based on what’s most important to you. Have certain hours blocked out for “me” time, client sessions, meetings and projects. If you blog, determine certain days and times that you will devote to writing. Be sure to block some margin into your day, so that you can take a breath, collect yourself and recharge.
People often wish for more time in the day. My guess is that if I gifted you 5 more hours per day, you would feel pretty much the same as you do now. As Parkinson’s Law denotes, any task will expand to fill the time you’ve allotted for its completion. But being productive isn’t about filling every hour of your day. What matters is how you plan to use those hours. Some of the most successful people on this planet don’t have a 40-hour workweek. That’s not because they are rich or because they don’t need to work. It’s because they are purposeful with their hours. They fill those hours with what matters most to them. Our time is finite. Don’t let other people decide how you are going to use yours. Instead, schedule your day with what matters most to you!
Allen, D. 2002. Getting Things Done. New York: Penguin.
Hyatt, M. 2013. How to better control your time by designing your ideal week. www.michaelhyatt.com; accessed Sept. 2013.
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